SA doctors discuss genetic counseling amid Angelina Jolie's surgery

Angelina Jolie has ovaries, fallopian tubes removed

SAN ANTONIO – After having a preventive double mastectomy two years ago, Angelina Jolie-Pitt announced she had preventive surgery once more, but this time, for the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Leslie Bucheit, a genetic specialist with Ambry Genetics said she saw the number of patients double after Jolie-Pitt announced her preventive mastectomy in 2013.

"A lot of studies cite the Angelina Jolie effect of individuals being inspired by her disclosure and going to their physicians and requesting this testing," said Bucheit. "A lot of researchers are now looking at the effect of being able to disclose that information. So yes, there absolutely was a spike the first time she brought up the aspect of the conversation. I anticipate that this will rejuvenate that conversation."

Jolie-Pitt, who lost her mother, grandmother and aunt to the disease, opted for the preventive surgery after findings from the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 tests.

Dr. Sharon Wilks, founder of Alamo City Cancer Council commends the move, citing the importance of early detection of these potentially life-threatening diseases.

"So, when someone has this identified, I think that the natural instinct is to consider if they have a mutation to have a surgery," said Wilks. "Just removal of the organs alone, that can be life saving and when we do see individuals who have done those surgeries, that reduces the risk over 90 percent."

Methodist Healthcare officials released a statement on Tuesday stating the Methodist Healthcare System offers genetic counseling, free of charge, and is the only "private" hospital system in South Texas to offer the complimentary services.

Christi Arreguin, MS, CGC, Methodist Healthcare's certified genetic counselor, said counseling is important to help women make informed decisions about genetic testing.

"We offer testing that can kind of tell us what the risks are because the general population risk is 2 percent ovarian cancer for women and it's up to 40 percent in some BRCA mutations, depending on what type of mutation it is," said Arreguin. "That can help us focus on the risk. So women can make the decision on what they want to do."

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